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At the Rink: Sabres at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski returns from a one-game benching, but the reasons why he sat and how long he stays in the lineup are unclear.

Wisniewski will play against the Buffalo Sabres at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday after being a healthy scratch Sunday at the New York Rangers, which fueled trade rumors.

He said Tuesday morning that he had not asked be traded, but The Columbus Dispatch reported the Blue Jackets (26-28-4) have made him available ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET.

Wisniewski has seven goals, 27 points and a minus-6 rating in 52 games.

As for not playing against the Rangers, Wisniewski said no one has told him specifically why he sat other than he needs to play better.

"The thing is they say I wasn't good enough and I hold myself to a higher standard to play better," he said. "I'm not going to say I was happy about it. I want to win and make this playoff push. But at the same time, I have to realize for myself that I need to go out and play now."

Columbus coach Todd Richards said he hasn't spoken to Wisniewski about the benching but that there was no ulterior motive.

"I don't think you're sitting a guy to send a message to the whole team," Richards said. "It might have that effect, but it wasn't done because of that."

Wisniewski is not the only issue Richards has to deal with.

Center Brandon Dubinsky missed the morning skate because he wasn't feeling well, although Richards expects him to play.

If Dubinsky can't go, defenseman Jordan Leopold will move to forward because forward Jack Skille is banged up, Richards said.

The Sabres (17-38-5) are in a similar situation. Right wing Nicolas Deslauriers is sick and did not skate Tuesday morning.

Buffalo coach Ted Nolan was not optimistic that he will play.

"It's a possibility, probably a slight possibly," Nolan said.

Because Buffalo has no extra forwards, seven defensemen would dress, including Nikita Zadorov. He was scratched from the game Sunday against the Nashville Predators because he overslept and missed a team meeting.

If Deslauriers regains his health then Zadorov will sit.

The Sabres, the lowest-scoring team (1.7) in the League, will face third-string rookie goaltender Anton Forsberg, who is 0-3-0 with a 4.85 goals-against average and a .864 save percentage.

Starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been out for a month with a groin injury and his usual replacement, Curtis McElhinney, will be Forsberg's backup.

"There's going to be some nights when teams rest their starters," Nolan said. "There's no better chance to rest them than when you play a team not in a playoff position. It gives them a little bit more to fight for as well. It doesn't matter to us."

Columbus center Mark Letestu said the Blue Jackets owe it to Forsberg to get him his first victory.

"We haven't played our best hockey in front of him," he said. "You get him a win and have him feeling good about things, I think it's important."

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris StewartZemgus GirgensonsTyler Ennis

Matt MoulsonTorrey MitchellBrian Gionta

Marcus FolignoBrian FlynnNicolas Deslauriers

Johan LarssonMatt EllisCody Hodgson

Andre BenoitZach Bogosian

Jake McCabeRasmus Ristolainen

Andrej MeszarosMark Pysyk

Michal Neuvirth

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Nikita Zadorov

Injured: Mike Weber (lower body), Patrick Kaleta (lower body), Josh Gorges (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot), Tyson Strachan (illness), Evander Kane (shoulder)


Scott Hartnell - Ryan Johansen - Alexander Wennberg

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - Marko Dano

Corey Tropp - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski

Fedor Tyutin - Cody Goloubef

Curtis McElhinney

Anton Forsberg

Scratched: Jordan Leopold

Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Boone Jenner (stress fracture in back), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Jeremy Morin (heart), Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain), Dalton Prout (upper body), Jack Skille (undisclosed)

Status report: Strachan, a former Ohio State player, will miss a second straight game because of an infection and Nolan is unsure of his return date.

Who's hot: Neuvirth is 1-2-2 since Jhonas Enroth was traded to Dallas, but has a .951 save percentage (175 of 184) during the span. … The Blue Jackets have killed 21 of the last 23 penalties (91.3 percent) dating back over eight games to the third period against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6. … Nick Foligno has five goals and five assists in the past 10 games.

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